Click for Delta Click for JetForums Click for Cross Click for YF Listing Service Click for Mag Bay

El Faro: NTSB findings so far, EL Faro's boilers needed servicing

Discussion in 'YachtForums Yacht Club' started by Capt J, Oct 20, 2015.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Pascal

    Pascal Senior Member

    Joined:
    Feb 29, 2008
    Messages:
    8,192
    Location:
    Miami, FL
    If you plot the direct course or the course along the Florida coast then south of the bahamas, you will see the distance difference is only 100 nm

    Even bucking the stream southbound, they woudl have arrived in San juan more or less at the same time not having to slow down in the rough seas east of the bahamas.

    Nowadays, it s clear the word "responsibility" means pretty much nothing to most people. Bureaucrats and politicians can evade responsibility using carefully selected words and hiding behind the layers of bureaucracy they have build even if it means lying to the family of the people who died under their watch as we saw on thrusday. At sea, captains do not have this luxury, neither do the military, or pilots. It happens on their watch, under their command. Period.

    Unless you are an Italian cruise ship captain :)

    This is the case here. The captain took a gamble thinking he could squeeze between a hurricane and the bahamas leaving himself no escape route. He lost. His crew lost their lives, his line lost a ship and its cargo, and now it seems that we have to worry about further losses from floating containers.

    If he could come back from the dead, I wouldn't be surprised he would accept responsibility.
  2. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2005
    Messages:
    14,448
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    The Captain had reports that the Hurricane was intensifying, he had weather reports on the location of the storm and the direction/speed it was heading, that it was on an intercept path with his, and continued on, as his course became a direct collision course with a quickly building hurricane. The Captain chose to take and stay on that route. Based on the ship sinking and all hands lost, it was a completely unsafe route.

    The Captain could have popped through "Hole in the Wall" and headed West and then South between Florida and the Bahamas, a route that had no hurricane warning and was not in the projected path of the storm. Yet continued South where he was boxed in by the Exuma chain and couldn't alter course further West to avoid the Hurricane anymore.

    This is my opinion. My opinion is that if you took the Hurricane out of the equation, and ALL of the other things happened, the ship would not have been lost and nobody would've died. But, that is just my opinion. Do I put the responsibility on the Captain, yes. It is his responsibility for anything that happens on that ship and he chose the course and chose to play chicken with a hurricane when it wasn't necessary. The safe route, didn't really add a whole lot of mileage to the trip. Just like the Captain of the Costa Concordia chose to play chicken with an island to show off, rather than take a normal berth to it.

    As Pascal mentioned, it adds 100 MILES to go down the Florida coast, that entire week of the hurrciane we never had more than 6' seas, chances are he would've arrived in San Juan at the same time if not sooner.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
  3. ranger58sb

    ranger58sb Senior member

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2013
    Messages:
    839
    Location:
    Chesapeake Bay, USA
    I can see that -- after the fact -- it proved to be an unsafe route. Not focused on that.

    I don't think there's a way to know if the Captain thought is was that dangerous... or even that might be a "gamble." He might have thought it was simply business as usual, albeit perhaps a bit "brisk." Don't know...

    My only point is that I don't think it's fair to use everything we know now -- and the many speculations some have put forward -- to condemn a man's decision-making process as if he may have deliberately chosen poorly.

    -Chris
  4. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Messages:
    11,205
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Of course he would accept responsibility. It was his command. But the ship didn't sink because of his decision nor his chosen course. It didn't sink because of the hurricane. It sank because his vessel lost propulsion and sprang a leak at exactly the wrong time. The shipping company didn't have a problem with his chosen course. The Coast Guard didn't have a problem with his chosen course. The insurance company didn't have a problem with his chosen route. Someone please show me where any of them told the captain not to take that course. According to this thread ALL captains should refuse to leave port if there are any storms in the Atlantic or if there is any chance that your vessel could break down, because IF this happens and IF that happens and IF the other thing happens, and anything happens to the vessel it will be considered their fault.

    Every delivery captain, yacht captain and commercial captain on this forum had better take special note to this. It has legal ramifications. It's also one of the biggest reasons I retired and strongly recommend that nobody enter this industry. The odds are very good that you will lose everything you own the first time your plan doesn't work out, no matter what the cause, thanks to lawyers and monday morning quarterbacks. This thread is a warning to all captains to get out of this business.
  5. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    7,132
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    What he knows is the Captain was taking a route in the direction of a hurricane and continued that route for some period of time. What he knows is that the Company allowed the Captain to take that route. He is of the same opinion as I am that such a route was unsafe and a captain should certainly be aware that it entailed risks even if he felt he could "beat those risks."

    Beyond that, as to the specifics of what happened to sink the vessel, we don't know. But we do know that had the ship stayed at port or taken a "safer" route there would in all likelihood have not been 33 deaths.

    We all make decisions every day. Those decisions are influenced by many factors and job security and profits are among those factors. Sometimes it's no more than a desire to please, sometimes it's fear. People get out and drive cars in unsafe conditions, knowing there is risk. Some of the live's lost from the storm in SC were people who got out after warnings were issued. Years ago my wife and I together did something very unsafe for reasons we'd do it again. However, we did not put other's lives at risk in doing so.

    The degree of risk the captain felt we can't know, but he knew there was more than on a hurricane free voyage, as did the company. They took a risk they deemed acceptable. I don't deem it to be so and I don't need to know the rest of the investigation report to say that. Very simple. If I have a choice of going in the direction of a hurricane vs. a longer route that doesn't take me in that direction or staying where I am for a few days, I don't choose to go in the direction of the hurricane unless I'm on some life saving mission.
  6. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    7,132
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    We're not taking what we know now. We're taking what was known then. And this isn't the only captain I've questioned. I believe one or more cruise ships took to safety too late and had they lost propulsion, which cruise ships do fairly regularly, lives would have been jeopardized.
  7. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2005
    Messages:
    14,448
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    The Coast Guard has not spoken on his route and I don't think the Captain called them up and asked them when choosing his route. The insurance company most likely has a clause in it's contract that states what sailing into reasonable peril should be considering Hurricanes and such. I seriously doubt anyone contacted the insurance company and asked them what route they should take. But I can tell you this much, they can use the fact the Captain decided to sail directly into a Hurricane as a way to deny claims or at least fight to deny the claim. I don't think ANYONE would think that taking a ship knowingly through a hurricane would be a good idea when you can alter course 100 miles and be VERY far away from it. Tell me a policy that doesn't have a specific Hurricane section/clause in it whether it's a house, a yacht, a ship or whatever.

    The ship sank from a combination of events and failures. The Hurricane force waves and wind were most likely a very large part of why it sank and why a waterproof scuttle (designed to withstand tough stresses) was blown out causing a flooded compartment. IF they weren't battling 30'+ seas, the scuttle probably wouldn't have blown open, the compartment probably wouldn't have flooded. The Hurricane was most likely why he lost propulsion as well. The Captain had also been pushing the ship at close to it's full speed for 2 days to try to beat the hurricane. IF the ship lost propulsion, the scuttle blew out, compartment #3 flooded in 6'< seas and 20 knots of wind, the ship PROBABY wouldn't have sank and even if it did, the crew would've been able to safely launch and get into a lifeboat. AND, if it sank in 6' seas the USCG could instantly launch a search and rescue instead of having to wait days to do so.

    1 flooded compartment and a loss of propulsion does not sink a ship in calm water. 1 flooded compartment and a loss of propulsion in Hurricane force winds and waves will sink a ship. Hurricane force winds and waves sinks ships with propulsion also. Battling Hurricane force wind and waves heavily stress everything on a ship, from the propulsion, to the hull, to every system on that ship.

    No, According to this, any Captain should choose a course that is SAFE. One that keeps the ship, the crew, the passangers, and the cargo SAFE. A Captain should not tempt fate and decide to play chicken with a Hurricane that is building extremely fast, when the alternative safe route added little mileage and time. It's like choosing to run a yacht over a sandbar that you can clear with 1' under your keel at cruise speed, or going 1/2 a mile around it and staying in deep water.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
  8. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2007
    Messages:
    3,311
    Location:
    9114 S. Central Ave
    A competent captain knows that if he has 1 foot of under keel clearance at cruise speed and rolling is not an issue, he needs only to slow down while crossing the bar to obtain greater clearance and avoid a diversion.
  9. AMG

    AMG YF Moderator

    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2004
    Messages:
    5,380
    Location:
    Sweden
    Yes, 1/2 a mile is half a mile after all and saving two minutes is two minutes. Sand bars never moves anyway....
  10. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2005
    Messages:
    14,448
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    Depends on the boat and the situation. I ran over a sandbar in Belize, there's 2 islands you have to do an S curve through if you take the bay from San Pedro to Belize City, I would see 0.6-0.8' under the keel at 30 knots with the tabs down in a 45' Cabo express. If I slowed down to hull speed, the boat would be hard aground, because I'd need another 1'+ of draft off of plane. The alternative would be to take the ocean all of the way around and add 50 NM to the trip. Smaller fast yachts need less draft running 30 knots fully on plane than slow, same with larger Arneson expresses. Thank goodness it was only a 300 yard stretch and S turn. If it was 1/2 a mile diversion to go around it, I'd GLADLY go 1/2 a mile around versus over the sandbar. Suppose someone threw a crab trap, engine block, or old skiff sunk in the water there or some other debris was sticking up. You don't always know that just because the chart says you have 1' under your keel there that you always do in shallower water.

    The point of my example was, if the 100% safe alternative to a risky situation that doesn't add very much to the trip. I would take the 100% safe alternative everytime. But, I'm a very safety consciencious Captain, and avoid unnecessary risk. Then again, I was mentored in the beginning by a Captain of a 378' USCG ship (when he was in the USCG) with a 1600 ton unlimited who drilled SAFETY into me over and over again. I don't test fate and I'm not a betting man.

    My point was, if it only added 100NM to put several hundred miles between you,cross in an area that is not in it's projected path or in a hurricane watch of a quickly building hurricane, or to take a 40 year old cargo ship through a hurricane. 99.5% of Captains would avoid going through a hurricane or test your luck and try to beat one by 65 miles.

    But anyways, these are solely my thoughts.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
  11. Marmot

    Marmot Senior Member

    Joined:
    May 20, 2007
    Messages:
    3,311
    Location:
    9114 S. Central Ave
    The point of my example is that there are factors involved which may not be apparent to the operators of small recreational boats.

    It is one thing for someone here to say what they would do, it is quite another to criticize a professional mariner for not taking the same action.

    BTW, a 1600 ton master is very much a "limited" lower level license. The tonnage notation, 1600 GRT, is the limit. That license might (if other standards are met) allow the holder to serve as an able bodied seaman (STCW - able seafarer) on a ship the size of El Faro.
  12. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2005
    Messages:
    14,448
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    His license was 1600 ton unlimited master at that time. I don't think the USCG issues a higher license.

    There may be other factors, such as financial ones, like saving 100 NM and time to meet deadlines.....His actions and decisions ended up in the largest Maritime disaster in nearly 30 years, so obviously the decision he made was the wrong one. Another freighter in the same area decided to turn around and hide behind Cuba, they took what they thought was safe and it was.

    40 year old ship, scheduled for a refit in 2 months, an early generation RORO ship that is prone to having it's vehicle deck flooded in rough seas, maintanence crews welding and such to prepare the ship for a refit (they cannot work in 30-50' seas), tons of vehicles and cargo that the owners wouldn't love their vehicles taking a saltwater bath, and cargo getting bounced around. Everything to me, points to taking the safe route. But what do I know........

    "Water or shifting vehicles in the ship's hold may have made it unstable and vulnerable.
    Some naval architects say El Faro’s design and cargo configuration could have played a role in its sinking.

    The 40-year-old ship wasn’t a conventional container ship, but a “roll-on/roll-off” cargo vessel designed to carry trucks and other vehicles that are driven on and off the ship. When the El Faro departed Jacksonville, Florida, last Tuesday bound for Puerto Rico, it was carrying 294 cars, trucks and trailers below deck, as well as 391 containers on its top deck.

    Roll-on/roll-off ships have large external doors close to the waterline and open vehicle decks with few internal compartments. The El Faro had vehicle doors on the side of the hull rather than the bow and stern.

    During extreme weather, such as the 30- to 40-foot waves the El Faro encountered as it approached the eye of Hurricane Joaquin near the Bahamas on Thursday, sea water can pour through an improperly secured or damaged loading door, said Richard Burke, professor of naval architecture and marine engineering at the State University of New York Maritime College.
    Such ships require large open spaces, like the hangar decks on aircraft carriers, he said, and when water gets inside, it will “slosh” around the entire deck, making the ship unstable, he said.

    This sloshing is known as the “free surface effect,” and a surprisingly small amount of water can cause a ship to capsize, said Rick Spilman, who has worked as a naval architect for 30 years and writes a blog about ships.

    That’s why critics of the design call ships like the El Faro “roll on/roll over” ships.

    In 1987, when a bow door was left open on the passenger ferry MS Herald of Free Enterprise as it left dock in Belgium, water on the vehicle deck caused the ship to capsize in 90 seconds, Spilman said.

    In 2006, a fire broke out on the Egyptian ferry MS al-Salam Boccaccio 98. Water from fighting the fire collected on the vehicle deck and caused the ship to capsize and sink with the loss of over 1,000 lives.

    Spilman said roll-on/roll-off ships are popular for the route between Florida and Puerto Rico because they provide an efficient way to move cargo short distances, and there’s a large volume of vehicles shipped on the route.

    However, he said roll-on/roll-off ships are less safe than conventional container ships because they are much more likely to flip over.

    When a conventional container ship is in rough weather, he said, containers can tumble off the deck and lower the ship’s center of gravity, making the ship more stable because the containers inside the hold are more likely to remain secure than something that has been driven on. A conventional ship is more likely to sink slowly rather than capsize, giving the crew time to escape in life rafts, he said."

    http://www.pressherald.com/2015/10/...rgo-added-to-risk-of-operating-in-rough-seas/
  13. Kafue

    Kafue Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    1,164
    Location:
    Gold Coast Australia
    It is one thing to speculate the cause/s of this tragedy, it is another to point a finger and claim incompetence, greed and other EMOTIVE and personal views on an incident where there is no proof as yet. Too bad for the families and friends of those accused on this popular forum!
    This is not the Bounty, where evidence of culpability was evident before any real investigation was completed.
    Give these professional the benefit of the doubt before slandering them and their families.
  14. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Messages:
    11,205
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    I concur 100% with this, and as an example I draw to Capt. J's statement: "I ran over a sandbar in Belize, there's 2 islands you have to do an S curve through if you take the bay from San Pedro to Belize City, I would see 0.6-0.8' under the keel at 30 knots with the tabs down in a 45' Cabo express. If I slowed down to hull speed, the boat would be hard aground, because I'd need another 1'+ of draft off of plane."

    I consider that incredibly reckless. I've seen that move go to big time failure more times than I can count. You don't cruise a 45' cruiser at 30 kts. in an area where you don't know the bottom when you're that close to it. 0.6' difference can be filled by a small current or hitting a small wave. This isn't even a bay you run every day. I don't care if I touch bottom at 5 kts., but at 30 kts. you could have ripped the running gear right out of the boat (seen it), and sent any persons on board hurling forward at 30 kts. when the boat comes to a screeching halt (seen it). You're a hero because you made it, but you'd have been a big broke zero had you touched.

    These are calculated risks we all take a captains, and the more experience we have / the more likely it'll work out. Captain Michael Davidson was a Master since 1988, a graduate of the Maine Maritime Academy, and worked as a ferry captain for Casco Bay Lines in Portland, Maine. He was no stranger to rough water and storms, no novice captain, and not the sort to be careless. I am not qualified to 2nd guessing his judgement. I sincerely doubt that any of those 32 very experienced seaman (most probably far more experienced than me) questioned Captain Davidson's decision, and they were right there and betting their lives on it. Captain Davidson left 2 little girls behind who will one day read everything written about this disaster. I think that any questioning or speculating or Monday morning quarterbacking should be left to any of our members who have more qualifications and more experience than Capt. Davidson. I've got 59 years on the water, 28 professional, 100 GT Master NC since 1988. I don't have this captain's qualifications.

    And before anybody say it's just discussing, let me repeat: There are 2 little girls up in Maine, Capt. Davidson's daughters, who will one day be reading this thread. There is also a lawyer in Florida who has already filed suit against their deceased father and will be very happy if he can take everything away from those little girls. He's for sure reading this thread.
  15. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    7,132
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    They're not being slandered when an opinion is expressed about the idea of running into a hurricane. That aspect does not seem inappropriate to me. Evidence they chose to run in that direction is not disputed. That's the one known issue. I am not speculating as to the reasons for that. All their other problems and causes are to be determined. I also have a personal opinion as a businessman on allowing the Captain to select that route. That's not saying the company had a history of it or the reasoning. I'm sure those in the company regret that more than any of us can imagine. People make mistakes. Running into the area of the hurricane may not be the cause of the leak or the power loss or the sinking. Whether it is or isn't doesn't change my opinion of that choice. I would not label that as incompetence or greed at this point. However, I would offer the opinion as to their exercise of risk management.

    Actually this is very similar to Bounty in terms of a choice to outrun, outfox, or run into a storm. Both took on water, lost propulsion and sank. At this point in the matter of the Bounty the investigation was just starting. Actually, there is one major difference. Almost half the crew of the Bounty survived. It did take 19 months for the Bounty report. It will take at least a year for this one.

    I agree this discussion has gotten out of control and wavered into all sorts of areas. However, I refer back to one simple post by K1W1.

    "I am interested in the official investigation report but do tend to agree that with all the information available that it seems like a rather strange move to head directly into a hurricane no matter what vessel you are on."
  16. Kafue

    Kafue Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    1,164
    Location:
    Gold Coast Australia
    We should at least have patience to wait on more facts from qualified persons before making the kind of comments that will impact people in a terrible way, just for the sake of airing an opinion. We can do that surely?
  17. Kafue

    Kafue Senior Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    1,164
    Location:
    Gold Coast Australia
    Well said NYCAP!
  18. olderboater

    olderboater Senior Member

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2013
    Messages:
    7,132
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    There are far more than just two little girls who have lost family. It's devastating to many families. However, you seem appalled that any of the other families are seeking compensation. I would find the Captain's family deserving of it as well. The suits, including any the Captain's family initiate, will be aimed at the company and intended toward the insurer. They are death suits and are filed whether or not any errors in judgement are made. Every tragedy of this type leads to lawsuits as it's part of the process of collecting from the involved insurers. If it's found no one did anything wrong, the suits for loss of life still take place. I feel very sorry for each and every child, spouse, sibling who will live with this event forever. Unfortunately, nothing we can say or do will change that. They've lost primarily in loss of family. But they've also lost in many cases financially, losing a provider. I wish that didn't require litigation, but that's just simply not the way things are. Each and every child and spouse, including the Captain's, is a victim of a tragic accident. The attorney is their advocate.

    We can't spare anyone the pain of this. They'll read far worse and far more supportive than here. But worst of all is the simple fact they lost someone close. They'll read the final report, but in my opinion even if lost family members are found somehow to have some responsibility that doesn't lessen the sympathy I have for them.
  19. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2005
    Messages:
    14,448
    Location:
    Fort Lauderdale
    What on earth are you talking about??? The owner took the boat through there the first time as he was a native Belizian and had property in San Pedro and lived in Belize City. He knew the waters there like the back of his hand. It was an established route on the chart but only 4' deep in that spot and sand, but the only way to go from Belize City to San Pedro on the bay side you had to go through there and everyone did that had a small enough draft to do it and we went through there a couple of times a month without incident for months and months and months and it's about 200' wide. I too knew the route like the back of my hand. The water taxi's all went through there, everyone did. I ran that boat all over Belize, where it's very shallow darn near everywhere, and never once touched bottom. It was either that or add 100 miles round trip to the trip, IF we were coming from Belize City in both directions.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2015
  20. NYCAP123

    NYCAP123 Senior Member

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2008
    Messages:
    11,205
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    Odd, that's the exact distance out of your way that you're condemning this captain for not going, and you were in far greater risk. And what you just said is exactly what a Canadian captain told me before leading across the bar just before you enter the ICW south of Georgetown, S.C. in an Eastbay before he went from about 26 kts. to zero in a couple of feet. This thread is as bad as the National Enquirer and far more damaging. Absolutely irresponsible.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.